Norwegians have a word for the week between Christmas and New Year’s: romjula. The closest we have in English is the word Taint, meaning it ‘taint Christmas any more, but it ‘taint New Year’s either. I’m indebted to Rex Smith’s December 26th essay in the Times Union for this information, which inspired me to undertake some further research about this interlude in the darkest days of winter. I’m especially interested because of my Scandinavian heritage—I’m ¾ Norwegian and ¼ Swedish.
The theme of last night’s Poets Speak Loud open mic at McGeary’s Tavern was “holiday hangovers,” so I decided to write a poem about my findings. My research uncovered another meaning for “The Taint,” a meaning not fit to print in a family newspaper, but totally appropriate for the traditionally bawdy end-of-the-year event hosted by Mary Panza. In the version below, I’m highlighting the dirty bits in magenta, so you can skip over them if you’re squeamish.
The Christmas Goat and the Taint
The Taint—that’s what the Brits call this week that’s neither here nor there.
‘Taint Christmas any more, ‘taint New Year’s either.
A weirdly nebulous time, in northern climes devoted to slothful lassitude,
To wallowing in the doldrums, swallowed up in food and booze.
Some call it the Witching Week, claim you’ve got a free pass to excess
And nothing counts against you during The Taint.
That goes for calories too, so scarf down all those goodies.
Chugalug that eggnog, channeling Miss Piggy.
No fair weighing yourself till New Year’s morning.
Assuming you can see down past your bloated belly,
The digital red numbers will inform you of the penalty for all that gluttony.
Ding dong, the season of the witch is dead and gone,
But you’ll be paying the price in pounds for months to come.
But speaking of butts, The Taint has another meaning:
The place between the vulva and the anus, that narrow swath of skin
Also called the perineum, that keeps the delicate lady parts
From filthy nether regions. Also the area between the scrotum and the asshole
That keeps a man from shitting on his nuts.
This definition dates from the Renaissance, probably precedes
The tamer version focused on dark December,
And sheds new light on Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.”
Norwegians have less judgmental terms for the perineal lull
Twixt Christmas and New Year’s Eve: Romjula or romhelgen,
From the Norse, means “That does not need to be kept strictly sacred.”
In other words, no guilt trips. Nearer the North Pole,
Cradled in relentless never ending darkness,
They cut themselves some slack, feast on foods like krumkake and nuts,
Smash and devour the gingerbread houses
So carefully built for Christmas. They cozy up at home with family,
Slug down Aquavit, take contemplative walks in winter’s frigid cold.
Norwegians still may “go the Christmas goat.”
Children wander from house to house, begging treats. In earlier times
Folks dressed in shaggy pelts and brandished horns. The glowing yule log
Was once a goat, slaughtered and devoured to celebrate fertility
And ensure good fortune in the coming year.
Two goats pulled Thor’s thunderous chariot across the sky.
Tanngrisner and Tanngnjost by name, they made a fearsome racket
Called Tor-boom. We call it thunder, worship the Norse thunder god
At the multiplex, crown him the sexiest man in the world
As decreed by People magazine, though Chris Hemsworth’s actually Australian.
Hosting Saturday Night Live, he flashed his killer smile
And stashed his enormous hammer out of sight.
In Norway, long before Santa Claus, the fearsome Christmas goat
Brought presents for good children, punished the bad.
The goat is virile, beastly, a satyr, in league with witches or the devil,
A symbol of sexuality. All in all, a hell of a lot more fun and energetic
Than the amorphous, foggy phantom called The Taint
That blankets Merry England in the depths of winter.
I call myself Norse Crone, proud to be Norwegian.
I’d love your feedback. Please let me know how you feel about the “naughty bits” in the poem. Are they a total turn-off? Too tastelessly over the top? Since I’m working on the sequel to my vampire soap opera thriller HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL, your comments may help me decide how outrageous my writing can be.